A young Arizonian entrepreneur saw a problem in his community and decided to fix it. There were too many rats in his community and he decided to help his community for a fee. In this next example of bootstrap capitalism you will learn about Christian Alf and how he was temporarily put out of work by city regulators.
It is a continuation of last week's theme: Regulations that keep people from making a living the best and sometimes only way they know how.
Teen Entrepreneur Wins Case in Tempe, Arizona
This week I decided to examine a press release (web release) titled “Teenage Entrepreneur Wins Fight Against BereaucRATS: Christian Alf allowed to go back to work rat-proofing roofs.”
This web release discussed the legal problems surrounding a high school student that decided to “rat-proof” roofs in Tempe, Arizona. Rats seem to be a major problem in that city, and pest control businesses profit from “rat-proofing” consumers houses and properties. However, Christian Alf, the teen entrepreneur who was temporarily put out of business by the Arizona Structural Pest Control Commission, was receiving over 200 calls for his services—and the local pest control commission reacted to protect pest control businesses, not consumers.
The issue at hand was whether Mr. Alf’s unlicensed pest control work was legal as defined by state law. Although, performing unlicensed pest control work may result in a $1,000 fine, Mr. Alf’s work was completely legal.
Lisa Gervase, the Pest Control Commission’s executive director, “has determined that the limited, specific facts of this matter do not constitute the business of structural pest control.”
The Commission reversed its earlier position that Mr. Alf must have a license to do his work.
According to Tim Keller, the Institute for Justice Attorney on the case, the Commission “exceed[ed] its legitimate regulatory authority” and “there was no rational basis to require Christian [Alf] to obtain a pest control license.”
Commission’s standards require potential licensees to read a 500 page scientific guide to pest control operations. Within its pages it says they (the commission workers) should “take every opportunity to educate building owners as to the importance of building maintenance and encourage them to seal holes and cracks in doors and windows and around pipes and wiring.”
I have two remarks.
First, this suggests that homeowners are encouraged to fix their own homes. It would be absurd to suggest that homeowners should be condemned for fixing their own homes, work that can be done by any man, woman, or capable child in the home. If homeowners are encouraged by the pest control commission to maintain their home, then why is it such a big deal if they hire a kid to do it? What does it matter if this kid is a nephew and they pay him for it (similar to how my family paid me for fixing little things around the house) and a non-family member--next door, or across town, or in the next county--that gets paid?
The logical extension is even more preposterous to condemn. What about people who don't have licenses to cut grass? Should agricultural commissions file claims against little 14 year old Johnny Doe just because he is taking a few mowing jobs from lawn mowing companies? What if all the Christian Alfs of the world were no longer allowed to offer their grass-cutting services--their cheaper services--to their neighbors because the local lawn mowing companies wanted "protection."
I remember when my mom asked me to cut my neighbor's grass. Now imagine if I wasn't allowed to do so. "Sorry kid, you have to have a license. I can clearly see that you cut your parent's grass, and you did it well, but the law says..."
What about all that money I was making going around the neighborhood on snow days? What if some agency decided I couldn't clean my neighbor's driveways? Instead, my neighbors would have to hire some high-cost professional.
This was the only work I could do as a child. I enjoyed it. I enjoyed cutting grass. I enjoyed clearing driveways. I enjoyed being able to save and buy stuff with the money I earned. It helped build character. Who would be so evil as to want to take away all those great benefits from a child? The answer: Regulators.
To punish Mr. Alf would set a bad precedent in the courts that could hurt young people by taking away low-wage jobs that build character and responsibility and savings.
[Update 11/1/10: I actually found out that children entrepreneurs are free to do lawn work.]
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